Gay Mormon short stories. A celibate man dates a promiscuous porn
reviewer. A schizophrenic man accustomed to hearing voices suddenly starts
to receive real revelations. A gay couple steals from the rich to provide for
their favorite charities.
Buy The Complete Version of This Book at
Copyright © 2009 Johnny Townsend
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or
otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Printed in the United States of America.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any
similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not
intended by the author.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
God’s Gargoyles ........................................................................ 1
Swollen Testicles ..................................................................... 16
Private Dick .............................................................................. 32
Rocky Mountain Horror Show ................................................. 52
Learning to Sing in Antwerp .................................................... 63
Robbing People Blind .............................................................. 84
Ronnie and Clyde ................................................................... 105
The Sneakover Prince ............................................................ 122
Healing the Sick ..................................................................... 149
Superman’s Brain Tumor ....................................................... 166
A Light Going Out ................................................................. 192
Sex at Sunstone ...................................................................... 207
African Queen Meets Alien ................................................... 224
The Lithium Prophecies ......................................................... 237
horne put on his mask. It was Friday night, so the Single
Adult group was holding a Halloween dance at the stake
center later. Mormons weren’t allowed to wear masks, of
course. Thorne wasn’t quite sure why, but apparently it was a
sin. It let people do things they might not normally do, because
they were disguised. And those things they could conceivably
do under that kind of freedom were sure to be bad.
But Thorne had always loved gargoyles, ever since reading
The Hunchback of Notre Dame in high school. The teacher had
given the class a list of a hundred books she’d read, and let each
student choose a book from the list they felt interested in.
Thorne had liked the approach, allowing individuality rather
than forcing the same program on everyone. Most of the
students picked short novels or books about teens, but Thorne
had seen the Disney movie about the hunchback and wanted to
learn the real story, not the whitewashed version.
The injustice of it all deeply touched Thorne. Not only was
Esmerelda persecuted, but Quasimodo was as well, on several
levels. Forced into deafness, punished by Nature by his
deformity, simultaneously saved and tortured by Frollo.
Yet it was the figure of the gargoyle that stayed with
Thorne more than that of the hunchback, though he could see
how in some ways the hunchback was really a gargoyle himself.
In the years since, Thorne had watched several movies and
read other books about gargoyles, and no matter how poorly
executed the works might be, he still found himself absorbed by
the various images of gargoyles.
So tonight, Church rule or not, Thorne was dressing as one
for the Halloween dance. Wearing a mask wasn’t going to
change his behavior. He’d still ask Peggy to dance, and he’d
still be a perfect gentleman with her.
Thorne climbed into his car and headed for the stake center.
He was still worried about his costume. Real gargoyles were
usually naked. Technically, of course, any creature could be a
gargoyle. All it meant was a figurine that diverted damaging
water away from a building. Most gargoyles were monstrouslooking,
but animals or monks or anyone at all could be a
gargoyle. The usual demonic-looking creatures were technically
not gargoyles in the first place if they weren’t also water spouts.
If they were free-standing, they were called chimeras or
Unless he planned to funnel water tonight, Thorne was
really a grotesque, not a gargoyle. And he wasn’t naked. He did
have gloves that gave him clawed hands, but he couldn’t go to
the dance even just in his shorts, the rest of his body in makeup.
He had to wear his garments, the Mormon underwear that
had to be worn at all times, and since they went down to his
knees and included a T-shirt, Thorne could only accommodate
the clothing by wearing an outfit on top that mimicked green,
scaly skin. He did at least have special slippers that gave him
clawed feet. He’d never danced as a half-monster before. It
should be interesting.
“Ooh, cool costume,” said Tad when Thorne walked into
“Hey, no masks,” said Carmen.
Thorne simply shrugged without saying a word and kept
walking. He went up to the refreshment table and had some
“You can drink with that thing on?” asked Mary Ann.
Thorne nodded and kept drinking. He didn’t want to
respond verbally. The mask did make him want to hide his
identity. Keep people guessing. If they mistook him for
someone else, he could see if he was treated any differently.
Perhaps they’d think he was Paul, the good-looking guy Thorne
always admired. Or Jeff, the stake president’s son. Would
people be nicer to him, or meaner, if they weren’t sure who he
Thorne saw Peggy looking around the room and then
glancing at her watch. He knew it hadn’t been very nice of him
not to warn her of his costume. He didn’t want her to feel
abandoned, but if he only danced with her, people would figure
it out. So he danced with Carmen, Mary Ann, Peggy, Kendra,
Thorne didn’t actually ask the girls to dance. He just
walked up, pointed to the girl, pointed to the dance floor, and
held out his hand. The mystery was kind of exciting at first, but
it soon began to wear off. If you couldn’t communicate your
real feelings, or even know who you were actually flirting with,
what was the point? Then after Jeff and Paul arrived, the list of
remaining possibilities for who he might be grew shorter.
“You dance well,” said Kendra. “You must be black.”
Thorne shook his head.
“Then you must be gay,” she continued, laughing. “Maybe
you shouldn’t have come in disguise. Now we’re seeing the real
you. We’re not distracted by the trappings any more.”
She giggled, clearly joking, but Thorne stopped dancing
and walked away.
Thorne went back to the refreshment table and swigged
down some more Sprite. He could still feel his face burning.
Maybe he should go home, change, and come back as himself,
casually tell everyone he had a flat tire or something.
Someone bumped his arm and almost made him spill his
drink. Thorne turned to look and saw Denton standing beside
him. His heart skipped a beat. Denton was the Single Adult rep
for Thorne’s ward. He’d just returned from his mission to
Finland, which made him two years younger than Thorne, but
Thorne wanted very much to be friends with him. It was just
that Denton liked wrestling and boxing and football and hockey,
and absolutely every bit of that bored Thorne to tears. Denton
had invited him to a game once, and Thorne went to a thrift
store to buy a team sweatshirt, but he felt very transparent. He
couldn’t even enjoy sitting next to Denton, as uncomfortable as
he was with the charade.
“Great costume,” said Denton. “But the stake president is
stopping by later. I saw him in his office earlier. You’re going
to get in trouble.”
Thorne watched as Denton eyed him up and down
appraisingly. It wasn’t that it was a sexually appraising look,
but any evaluative look from Denton made Thorne’s heart beat
a little faster. He had to get out of there.
Thorne nodded a goodbye and left the building. He didn’t
feel like going straight home, though. It would be too
depressing to be alone with his thoughts. Besides, gargoyles
always came in groupings, several to a building.
So where could Thorne find other gargoyles tonight?
He drove around aimlessly for twenty minutes and
eventually found himself downtown. There were lots of clubs,
and Thorne saw people dressed as pirates and aliens and Native
Americans and hookers and nuns and superheroes. Then he saw
a man in shorts wearing a leather harness that attached two huge
angel wings to his back.
He slowed down.
An angel wasn’t as good as a gargoyle, yet Thorne still felt
attracted. He watched as the man entered a bar with several
other men. It must have been a gay bar. It was called Fallen
Angels, which sounded gay. And what more appropriate place
would a man with angel wings go, or gays, for that matter?
Thorne paused in the street outside the bar until someone
behind him honked. He’d always wanted to go to a gay bar but
had never allowed himself the experience. If he went tonight, no
one would know it was him. No one could report him. No one
would say, “Oh, that Mormon boy is naughty.” He wouldn’t be
giving the Church a bad name. He’d simply be satisfying his
And he didn’t want to be alone right now.
Thorne parked the car a few blocks away and walked back
toward the bar. He got a few approving nods from other guys
walking by. Thorne found himself gawking at two leathermen,
one with a spiked thong and the other wearing a black leather
covering over his entire head.
Gays really were subhuman. Or at least only part human.
They were chimeras, mixtures of men and animals.
Thorne felt a pain in his chest. He understood Quasimodo’s
longing to be a stone gargoyle.
Thorne stood before the door and took a deep breath.
Someone bumped into him, and he started into the bar. It was
filled with revelers. There were several shirtless men, but most
had on costumes of one sort or another. A few were dressed as
women. There was a nurse and a Southern belle. But Thorne
was drawn to the police officer, and to Gandalf, and to the
beautiful man dressed as Pan.
“Can I touch you?” Thorne asked the human half of Pan.
Pan laughed. “It’s Halloween. Everyone gets a free pass
Thorne reached out tentatively and touched Pan’s flat
stomach. Then he withdrew his hand, took off the glove, and
touched again. He sighed heavily.
Pan reached back and groped Thorne’s groin. Normally,
Thorne would have felt repulsion at such a base move, but
tonight, he smiled, though he knew the other man couldn’t see
through the rubber on his face. He groped Pan in return, feeling
a lump through the man’s hairy pants.
“It’s too early to get this friendly,” said Pan, laughing. “It’s
only 10:00. We’ve got all night. Come on. Let me introduce you
to some friends.”
Thorne followed Pan through the crowd. They stopped in
front of a man wearing huge plastic boobs and a large plastic
“This is my best friend, Rob,” said Pan. The two men
kissed. “This is—hey, who are you, anyway?”
“I don’t know who I am,” Thorne replied.
“Make something up.”
“In my side,” said Pan.
“In your backside,” corrected Rob.
“We don’t even know if he’s a top yet. Don’t pressure
“Are you a top?”
“I—I don’t know what that means.”
The two men stared at Thorne. “What rock did you just
crawl out from under?” asked Rob finally.
The rock of revelation, thought Thorne, but all he said was,
“I’ve led a very sheltered life. I was hoping to change that
“Well, come along then. Halloween is supposed to be a
night for children, after all.”
Pan led Thorne to another group of friends, a cowboy, a
doctor, and a soldier. “Love your costumes,” Thorne said
“What costumes?” said one of the men. “I am a doctor.
And Jerry is a soldier. And Harlan does ride bulls in the rodeo.”
“I grew up in the suburbs,” said Harlan, “but that never felt
like the real me. Then I discovered bull-riding. I still live in the
city, though.” He shrugged. “But I’m not an urban cowboy. I’m
a real cowboy.”
“Ever get fucked by a bull?” asked Pan.
“I’m not that stupid.” Harlan paused. “Though I do know a
guy who got fucked by a horse once.”
Gays were disgusting, thought Thorne. These people were
scaring him away from falling into sin, and that was a good
thing. He should really leave.
“I’ve been with my partner six years now,” Harlan went on.
“We’re still monogamous. With people or with animals. We’re
even monogamous on party nights like tonight.”
“So where is he now?” asked the doctor.
“He’s laid up with a bruised leg.” He turned to Thorne.
“He’s a rodeo clown. It’s a rough job.”
“And you left him at home alone?” the doctor continued.
“Love doesn’t mean being a martyr.”
“Doesn’t it?” asked Thorne.
“Love means wanting the best for the person you love.”
Harlan looked at Thorne. “What do your loved ones want for
Thorne thought for a moment. They wanted him to live a
life of denial, of course. But it was all so he could become a god
later and have a life of eternal happiness. Wasn’t that love?
“They want me to be pure and good.”
The others laughed. “And my coming to a party makes me
impure and bad?”
“I didn’t say that. The doctor did.”
“Do you feel impure for being here?” Pan asked Thorne.
Thorne frowned. He hadn’t drunk any alcohol. He hadn’t
had sex. He had, however, groped and been groped. Yet even
that somehow seemed innocent despite its sexuality. But
perhaps he was letting his feelings divert him from the truth.
“I can’t see that just congregating together is a sin.”
“That’s big of you.”
The others then began talking of other things, of the last
juicy item they’d read on afterelton.com, or the latest round of
American Idol, or the really fabulous outfit that Katie Holmes
had just worn. It all seemed so flighty to Thorne. People
distracted themselves with superficiality all the time in order to
escape the meaningful parts of life. He wasn’t sure that actually
made them bad. It just didn’t make them especially good, either.
Was it possible to be neutral? Even Marie Osmond had joined
the cast of Dancing with the Stars, hadn’t she?
Thorne watched as other friends and acquaintances of the
group filtered past, hugging and kissing the guys he’d just met.
He kept stealing glances at Pan, whose real name he still hadn’t
caught. There was something special about him, Thorne
Or was he simply being distracted by the man’s looks? The
devil used lust to divert people from the truth every chance he
got. That’s why young men weren’t allowed to serve missions if
they were no longer virgins, even if they’d repented.
Thorne remembered the excitement he’d felt when he’d
opened his mission letter from the prophet. The Lord had called
Thorne to serve in Paris, France. Thorne’s testimony doubled in
strength on the spot. God was sending him to see Notre Dame.
It couldn’t be a coincidence.
He was stationed in the city for a full half of his mission,
and he went to Notre Dame on every P-day. Sometimes, he had
to go with different missionaries because his own companions
tired of spending half of each Preparation Day at the cathedral.
It was always frustrating, though. Thorne could never get
as close to the gargoyles as he wanted. They were always just
out of reach. Beauty he could never touch. He felt like the
woman trying to feel Jesus’ robe.
“Stop obsessing about those damn gargoyles,” his
companion had told him one day. “You’re missing all the rest of
the interesting stuff down below.”
But Thorne felt that if he could just finally have contact
with a gargoyle close-up, it might somehow cure him of his
depravity. Gargoyles were water spouts, certainly, but they had
a spiritual function as well, to scare away evil spirits. Why an
evil spirit would be scared of a demon was another question, of
course, but what if? What if it really worked, and Thorne could
have the evil inside him turned away from his soul? He’d tried
One day, Thorne decided he’d have the physical contact he
needed. He slipped away from his companion, hid inside the
church, and waited for night to fall. Once everyone was gone,
he’d sneak out onto a ledge and grab hold of one of the
gargoyles. He’d be saved.
Only security was tighter than he’d expected. Thorne had
thought that after spending so many hours in the church on so
many successive P-days, he’d found a way to escape, but he
was caught and expelled, though fortunately not arrested. When
the mission president learned where he’d been all that time after
ditching his companion, he was sent away from the city for the
remainder of his mission.
So he hadn’t been cured.
Thorne continued reading about gargoyles in the hope that
he’d find a key to his own salvation. Naturally, he read the
scriptures daily as always, and prayed and fasted and went to
church, but somehow all that didn’t seem like enough. He’d
decided that dressing as a gargoyle tonight might be the only
way he could finally really touch a live gargoyle and heal
“Come on, Thorne,” said Pan. “It’s hot. Let’s go upstairs on
Thorne had had a couple of Sprites since arriving at the bar,
but he was in fact hot as well, in the middle of that huge crowd,
so he gladly followed Pan up the stairs. The crowd was just as
thick up there, and Thorne felt more than one hand on his ass as
he pushed through. It was subhuman to enjoy it, but he did.
“You’ve been here an hour,” said Pan. “What do you think?
Are you going to join the dark side?”
“How can you joke like that?”
Pan shook his head. “It’s religion that’s the joke. Religious
leaders make us the scapegoat to deflect people’s attention from
the real issues in their church. Like the subjugation of women,
the misery of the poor, the sinfulness of war. Who gives a fuck
if my cock is in your ass? What about the killing of 80,000
Iraqis? People focus on my dick so they don’t have to focus on
their other beliefs and how unfounded they might be.”
Thorne thought about that. It almost seemed true. When
Mormons were writing letters against gay marriage and sending
in large donations to fight against gays, their focus was turned
away from whether or not family and marriage and children was
really the only worthwhile way to devote one’s life in the first
place. No one considered remaining single, celibate or not, in
order to devote one’s life to teaching the poor in Tanzania or
nursing the sick in Guatemala or fighting slavery in the Sudan.
And certainly, no one thought about whether or not the
Book of Mormon were just a novel, or if authoritarianism and
following blindly were really the way God wanted us to develop
morally. They had a real enemy to fight. The gays and the devil
who was leading the gays. There was no time to worry about
And yet, the Church warned against rationalization, against
Satan’s sly deceptions. So was the Church’s untruth hidden by a
mask of righteousness? Or was the sinfulness of sexual
abomination disguised by a mask of freedom?
What was the truth and what was the costume?
“I want you to come home with me tonight,” said Pan. “Let
me make love to you. You can decide for yourself if it’s sex or
celibacy that’s depraved. If you don’t like it, you can always
“What if I do like it?” asked Thorne. “And need to repent
“God, you religious people let the preachers yell in your
ears so loudly you go deaf. What does your heart tell you?”
“It certainly doesn’t tell me I’m in love with you. I just met
“But does it tell you to live your life to the fullest?”
Thorne sighed. “I don’t know.” He turned away and looked
out over the balcony. He wanted more than anything else to be a
gargoyle, not to have any feelings at all which might confuse or
Yet feelings could also give him happiness, couldn’t they?
“Well, make up your mind,” said Pan. “What do you want
The Sneakover Prince
Imet Alan at the Faubourg Marigny gay bookstore in New
Orleans. “Any new porn?” I asked breezily, walking past
the counter where he was reading a book, and heading to the
porn rack in back of the store.
“Oh, I—I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t put out the
magazines. I just work the cash register.”
He actually sounded kind of nervous, as if talking about
gay porn unsettled him. I smiled. How could you work in a gay
bookstore and be uncomfortable with gay porn?
Well, he was new here, I figured. I hadn’t seen him in the
bookstore before. Still, even to come in and talk to the owner
about a job suggested some degree of comfort.
I decided to test my suspicions about his jitteriness, just for
fun. After looking through the magazines, I brought two up to
the counter. One was the mainstream Advocate Men and the
other was Leather Men. I put the two magazines in front of the
new cashier and opened both, one to a photo of a businessman
in an office with his pants down, and the other to a photo of a
man in leather chaps kneeling doggie-style while another man
in a leather harness rimmed him.
“Which do you think I should give my Dad for his
The man became bright red in seconds and turned quickly
to fiddle with some papers. “Is—is your Dad really gay?”
“Well,” I said, “since the stroke, he can’t remember, so I
keep trying to convince him he is.”
The man turned to look at me a moment, trying to figure
out if I was joking or not. We chatted for about fifteen minutes.
He told me his name was Alan, and he was working part-time
here and part-time in a used book store in the French Quarter a
few blocks away.
“Nice,” I said. “I’m a librarian at Tulane University. We’ll
have to get together to talk about books sometime.”
Alan looked a little flustered at that, but I wrote down my
address and phone number and told him to give me a call or just
drop by after work some day.
I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I was in the habit
of regularly asking strange men over to my place, so I didn’t see
any reason to neglect this particular young man.
Only he wasn’t really young, was he? He seemed young
because of his nervousness, but he had to be in his late 30’s.
And I was 42 myself, so I wasn’t usually up for delicate
schoolgirl flirtations. As a rule, I was more direct. “Want to
come over to my place and fuck?” But Alan seemed to demand
a softer approach, and something about that intrigued me.
Later that day, I stopped off at the bathhouse on Toulouse
Street in the Quarter, sucked two dicks and had my own dick
sucked, and then I biked home to my house in the Marigny.
By the next day, I had completely forgotten about Alan.
I got down to my part-time job after lunch. I worked at
home writing reviews for porno movies. I actually made about
$400 a month doing this, but it was still only lagniappe. I
couldn’t have gotten by without my library job. I worked in the
reference section on the main floor. Despite the internet, people
still needed me occasionally.
I enjoyed reviewing porn, though. First of all, I enjoyed
watching porn. And I enjoyed the fact that since I was a
reviewer, I received the new porn dvds for free. All I had to do
was write my reaction to what I saw. I tried not to let my own
specific interests make me too opinionated, but I found that I
didn’t have to say, “Oh, my god, how boring.” I could just
pretend to be objectively describing a scene but simply use
boring words or exciting words to convey my opinion.
It was Thursday, but I had Thursdays off, and after
watching two dvds and beating off only at the end of the last
one, I went downstairs to see if my mail had come.
I owned a two-story house in the Marigny that I had bought
with my partner of twenty years, who had died almost three
years ago of a heart attack at the age of 60. I lived on the top
floor and rented out the downstairs as two small apartments. I
had an entrance on the ground floor, naturally, and was walking
down the stairs when I heard the metal squeak of the mail slot.
Just in time, I thought.
But I stopped short when I realized there were eyes peering
at me through the slot. I was only wearing my T-shirt and
underwear, and I realized suddenly my underwear even had a
little wet spot from where I’d leaked after coming.
Was that the mailman looking at me, I wondered. Well,
whoever it was was going to get an eyeful.
I ran the rest of the way down the stairs and opened the
It was Alan, turning beet red.
“I—I was just—I mean—I—“
“What a perv,” I said, laughing.
Alan turned even redder.
“You don’t have to sneak a peek,” I said, putting my hand
on his shoulder. “I’ll show you anything you want to see.” I
reached down to the elastic band on my boxer briefs.
“I’ve got to go.” Alan turned and got on his bike and
I laughed, but I couldn’t help but think, “Hey, we’ve both
got bikes. We’ll have to go riding together sometime.” I knew
I’d have to stop by the bookstore again to tease him.
A few days later, I did stop in, and I was happy to see Alan
at the register. “Hi, boyfriend,” I said, smiling sweetly at him.
He turned red. “Any new porn?”
“I don’t know.”
I left him alone then and browsed the card rack, looking for
a racy birthday card to send to a friend. When I glanced back
over at the counter, I could see Alan checking out my box.
He was almost squinting, of course, since I didn’t have that
showy a box, being more of a grower than a shower, but he was
definitely trying hard to see what he could. I smiled, and he
turned away quickly to do some paperwork.
I selected a card and went up to the counter. Alan didn’t
say anything, but when he handed me the card, I took his hand
and held it, mostly just to see his reaction. I saw barely
controlled panic in his eyes.
“What time is your shift over?”
“Have you ever seen Under the Tuscan Sun?”
“Do you like catfish?”
“You’re coming over to my house when you get off work.
We’ll have a nice dinner and then watch a dvd.”
Alan looked down at the counter. “I—I’m not really
supposed to date,” he said softly.
“You already have a boyfriend?” I asked. I think I let the
surprise in my voice show.
“Oh, no. It’s just that I’m Mormon. I’m supposed to be
celibate. I’ve never gone on a date before.”
“Well, I wasn’t asking you to bed. Just to see a movie.”
“Oh, I thought—I—“
“Not that I wouldn’t have tried to make a move on you, but
I can control myself, even around someone as good looking as
Alan turned red again.
“But we will have to cuddle while we watch. Will that
work for you?”
I didn’t know why I was pursuing Alan so strongly. Part of
it had to be just for the fun of watching him squirm. But I also
did find him attractive, and while I had a good circle of friends
already, I was always open to widening that circle. Gay people
had to rely on chosen family more than biological family, and I
always wanted more “relatives.”
Alan and I did have dinner that evening, and we did cuddle
while watching the movie. There was no fondling, though, and
not even any kissing. I was touched at the end of the evening,
however, when Alan stood up formally and offered me his
hand. “I had a very good time,” he said. “Thank you.”
I grabbed his hand and pulled Alan close to me, kissing his
ear. “Will you come back next Sunday?” I whispered.
“Y-yes,” he whispered back.
Alan came over every Sunday evening for the next several
weeks. His shift was only from noon to six, he explained, and
he went to church with his mother every Sunday morning
before work, and so, he went on, “I feel I just need to treat
myself once a week.” He looked guilty immediately and added,
“You don’t think that’s a sin, do you? It’s not like we’re having
sex or anything.”
“Well, there is a little bit of ‘anything,’” I said. “I do beat
off thinking of you after you leave.”
Alan turned red, but he smiled, too. “Really?” Then he
looked concerned. “But if I make you sin, does that count as a
sin against me, too?”
“I’m not sinning, honey.”
Alan didn’t say anything.
“If you think being gay is so bad, why do you work in a
“Well, I’m not sure anymore if it’s bad. And I want to see a
little of the other side of the question so I can make up my
mind. I’d like not to be alone the rest of my life. I mean, I have
my Mom, but…”
“I think you need to start coming over on Wednesday
“Really?” Alan smiled again.
“I have a lot of dvds,” I said. “Do you mind more
Alan thought for a moment. “I like cuddling,” he said
“I get off work at 6:00 on Wednesdays. So can you be here
We started doing other things besides watching movies.
Sometimes, we played Scrabble or UNO or gin rummy and
even games like Hangman and charades. I found Alan
delightfully innocent and playful on the one hand, but on the
other, I was a little disturbed to learn that at 38, he still lived at
home with his Mom. She was in perfect health and didn’t need a
caretaker, but Alan felt that after his father’s death fifteen years
earlier, he had to look out for his mother. It seemed sweet in
some ways, but in another way, I wondered if he hadn’t really
stayed 18 years old for the past 20 years.
Of course, I wasn’t still just a kid, and while I was enjoying
Alan’s company, I was also actively pursuing the company of
other men. Sometimes, I’d sit on the stoop in front of my front
door and just pick up guys walking down the street. Other times
late at night, I’d go to the bar three blocks away and pick
someone up there.
I usually told Alan about these episodes. He looked
perturbed but also always asked for details. Then he’d just look
at the floor a moment and think.
One day, though, he surprised me by kissing me hello.
“Wow,” I said, “That’s a big step.”
Alan turned red but then looked a little depressed. “It’s
pretty sad when something as simple as a kiss is a big step.”
“Well, let’s be happy about it, not sad.”
He looked up then and nodded. “Okay. I’m sorry. I guess
I’m just in a down mood because I’ve decided maybe there is
no God. I’ve been praying for something for a long time and
God hasn’t given it to me, so I finally realized maybe he doesn’t
“Hmm,” I said, trying to keep this light. “Maybe he does
exist, but he just doesn’t like you.” I smiled teasingly.
Alan’s brow furrowed. “You know, with my low selfesteem,
it’s a wonder that never occurred to me.”
“So you’ll keep the faith a little longer?”
“Why do you want me to believe? I thought you
disapproved of all my angst.”
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with believing in God. It’s just
the believing that he doesn’t want you to be loved by someone
that I find upsetting.”
Alan nodded. Of course, I hadn’t myself prayed in a very
long time, but I didn’t see why Alan couldn’t have both faith
and love in his own life.
I decided to lighten things up now, though. I’d found an old
game of Twister at a rummage sale, and after dinner, we
improvised a way to play with just two people. When we were
pretty entangled already, I then announced, “Left hand on right
buttocks,” and placed my hand on Alan’s ass. He jumped, but a
moment later, I felt a hand on my ass as well.
He kissed me goodnight that evening as he left, and kissing
became a regular part of our encounters from then on. I tried
introducing it to the cuddling sessions, and after only a brief
amount of resistance, Alan gave in and started some pretty good
amateur French kissing. It didn’t take him long to polish his
He started staying longer after our Sunday night movie was
I found that Alan was truly a sweet man. He told me of his
two years as a missionary in Tonga, where he helped teach
people English as well as helped local Mormons build a couple
of houses for some of the poorer islanders. I’d always thought
Mormons just proselytized, so it was nice to hear they actually
did some useful things, too.
And in the years since he returned to the States, Alan
regularly volunteered with the Cub Scouts, and with the Sierra
Club, and with an AIDS hospice, and with organizing local
March of Dimes events.
“You think a lot about other people,” I said.
“Well, to be honest, it’s all just to divert the energy I want
to put into sex. I sometimes wonder how many great things we
could do as a people if we didn’t invest so much of ourselves in
seeking an orgasm.”
“It doesn’t have to be either/or,” I said. “I teach ESL to
Hispanic immigrants.” I paused. “Of course, I make the men
take their shirts off if they want any extra help.”
“See what I mean?”
“You may have a point. But how about I make you a
promise? After we start having sex, I’ll begin volunteering with
the Sierra Club, too.”
Alan turned red, but he looked pensive for a few moments
But we didn’t start having sex. Soon, we’d been “dating”
for five months, and I had yet to so much as grope him. He did
let me rub his chest during our cuddling sessions, and he would
rub mine, too, but if my hand strayed down to his stomach, he
would grasp it and place it back on his chest.
We did a few day excursions, too, biking together through
the Marigny or to Audubon Park, buying fruit at the Farmers
Market, walking slowly along the levee, and even going to gay
bingo once. I found Alan intelligent, and we talked about the
Middle East, and about health care reform, and about nuclear
and solar and wind energy, and even about astronomy.
Sometimes, we watched lectures on dvd about topics like Greek
archaeology or Jewish intellectual thought of the 16 th century.
“You know,” I told him one day over gumbo, “if I could
just get you into bed, you’d make a great husband.”
“There’s so much else we can share,” Alan replied.
“Shouldn’t that be enough?”
“But when you love someone, you want to share yourself
with them completely.”
“I love my mother, but I don’t want to have sex with her.
And what relationship can be stronger than that between a
mother and son?”
“That between a married couple.”
Alan looked at the floor a moment. “Maybe,” he said
It was on our six-month “anniversary” that I was finally
able to meet Alan’s mother, in their Gentilly home. She hadn’t
heard anything about me, I learned, and thought I was a regular
at the straight French Quarter bookstore where Alan worked.
He’d told her months ago that he also worked at a gay
bookstore, and they’d talked a few times about his feelings
toward men in general, but she was only okay about his “being”
gay, he told me, as long as he wasn’t “doing” gay things.
“Like listening to old disco songs?” I asked him.
Alan glared at me but laughed.
“So you’re a friend of Alan’s?” his mother asked me that
evening, shaking my hand as she let me into her home. “I’m
“I’m Balzer,” I said.
“What an odd name.” She smiled.
“It suits me,” I replied. “Because I’m ballsy.”
“Oh, dear. We try not to use language like that around here.
I hope I’m not offending you.”
“Oh, no. I’m a librarian. I’m used to attempts at
censorship.” I smiled, and she smiled back uncertainly.
But after our rocky start, I found I really liked Alan’s
mother. She was a social worker who also volunteered with the
Breast Cancer Run and the Brownies. As an active Mormon,
she naturally taught Sunday School every week, but she also
made a point of being pen pals with three children in South
America she was sending money to every month, teaching
herself Spanish on the side. I suppose after fifteen years without
a husband, she was deflecting some sexual energy, too. Still,
there were plenty of more selfish ways to do that. She seemed
like a legitimately nice woman to me.
“I don’t know if Alan has told you,” Sharon said, “but we
only just got our stove working again. We had to cook on the
grill for a whole week.” She shook her head. “I tried hard to be
“But it’s just so difficult to grill those peas,” I continued for
Sharon laughed, a hearty, sweet, good-natured laugh. “It
was the red beans and rice that was the toughest.”
“She’s not kidding,” said Alan.
We had a pleasant, cheerful meal, and I could see why Alan
genuinely liked his mother, though I was still a little concerned
that she had too much control over her son’s life.
“Now tell me,” Sharon said over dessert a little later.
“Alan’s been very secretive. But he stays out late a couple of
times a week. Do you think he’s got a sweetheart? Does he talk
to you about these things?”
“He’s been very vague,” I replied, “but I think he may be
seeing someone special.”
“Oh, I hope so.” She paused a moment. “Are you married,
“I was married for twenty years. But three years ago after a
terrible heart attack…”
“Oh, and so young. How awful.”
“Yes, it was awful. I’m sure your loss was awful for you,
“Yes.” She nodded slowly. “But you find ways of coping.”
She smiled at Alan.
“I had a friend,” I said suddenly, “a woman named Ann.
She had a sister, but her sister left home at 20. That left Ann
alone with her parents, who hadn’t gotten married till they were
over 40. So they were in their 60’s by then. Ann felt she had to
stay home and take care of them. Of course, they lived until
their mid-80’s. By the time Ann allowed herself to date, she was
45 herself. She did finally marry at 48, but naturally, she’ll
never have children. She felt she was doing a good thing by
staying with her parents, but she gave up her whole life to do
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man give up his
life for a friend,” said Sharon, apparently quoting some
“Then why shouldn’t it be the parent giving up their ‘life’
for their child?” I asked.
There was silence for a moment. Then Sharon said slowly,
“Do you have any children?”
“I didn’t think so.”
“I think your friend Ann stayed with her parents because
she wanted to,” said Alan, “not because she had to. There’s a
Sharon smiled again.
The dinner was over by then, and I only stayed about
fifteen more minutes, as I could clearly see Sharon had had
enough of me for one evening. But she smiled sweetly and
shook my hand at the door as I left. I couldn’t read Alan’s
expression as he said goodbye.
Alan didn’t call the next day, or the next, but he did show
up again on Wednesday night. He kissed me and hugged me
when he came in the door.
“Oh, what a scene you caused,” he said, plopping down on
the sofa. “My mother cried for half an hour, asking if she was
ruining my life. It took me forever to convince her that I liked
things just the way they are.”
“Why would you want to convince her of that?”
“Because she was crying.”
“So if I start crying, you’ll begin sleeping over?”
Alan looked at me.
“I took acting in college. I can be very convincing.”
“My mother isn’t acting.”
“I think you stay with your mother because you’re
comfortable there. She does the cooking and the cleaning, and
you don’t have to face any adult responsibilities.”
“Always being there for someone is an adult
“What are you going to do when you’re 55 or 60 and your
mother dies? You’ll be all alone in the world.”
“She’ll be all alone now if I leave her.”
“I think most men with wives and children still manage to
call their mothers and visit. And there’s no reason she can’t try
to make a few friends and stop forcing you to be her only social
support. Aren’t there any nice people at your church?”
Alan was quiet a moment.
“I want you to start sleeping over one night a week.”
“I don’t want to have sex.”
“I didn’t say anything about sex. I just want to feel you
beside me all night. Your mother still has you six nights a week.
I’m not asking for the world. But I need you over here at least
one night a week.”
Alan looked at the floor. “What will I tell my mother?”
“Tell her anything you want.”
“She’ll think I’m having sex if I stay out all night. I
couldn’t do it.”
I was quite irritated by this point and wanted to say, “Are
you wearing diapers? Be a man!” but instead I said, “Can’t you
just sneak over and then sneak back home early in the
Alan continued looking at the floor. “Maybe,” he said
Two weeks later, on a Wednesday night, Alan stayed for
his first sleepover, or as we decided to call it, his “sneakover.”
We had our usual evening together first, then Alan rode his bike
back home, made a show of going to bed, and then sneaked
back over after his mother fell asleep. We debated about
whether to have the sneakover at his place or mine and finally
decided that it wouldn’t feel like a grown up thing to do unless
we did it at my place.
As we were cuddling with the lights out, still wearing our
underwear (and Alan’s Mormon underwear certainly took some
getting used to), I said, “I’m going to tell you a bedtime story.”
“Okay,” said Alan, giggling, and holding my arm tightly
across his chest.
I then proceeded to outline a scenario from one of the porn
dvds I’d had to review the night before. I was determined not to
let this evening be just the equivalent of a preteen slumber
“Oh, you’re mean,” said Alan, but he laughed anyway.
He could feel my dick growing hard against his backside
and he pressed his ass up against me, but there was no official
fondling. Still, I thought it was a step forward for us, and I fell
asleep pretty contentedly.
I wondered over the following weeks if all this effort was
worth it. Alan was clearly damaged goods and would never be
“normal.” Of course, who in this life wasn’t noticeably
damaged in some way? But even if we did start having sex,
there was no guarantee we’d be compatible in the first place.
Besides, there would be so much pressure to perform well after
all this foreplay that it was bound to be a little disappointing,
even if it was actually quite adequate.
But I liked the guy. Even if Alan were no good in bed, I
could still get my rocks off with other men, as I was doing now.
I just wanted to be with him. As irritated as I was with Sharon, I
had to admit she’d raised a good son.
One Sunday when Alan showed up, I said, “Want to help
me with some work?”
“What do you need?”
“I’ve got another dvd I have to review.”
“I don’t know,” Alan said cautiously. “I’ve never watched
porn before. I’ve heard it’s addictive.”
“Well, I have an endless supply. You’ll never have to go
“I don’t know.”
“If you get too excited, you can go in the bathroom and
beat off by yourself. I won’t take advantage of you.”
Alan looked a little dejected at that, it seemed, which made
me smile. “If you want to understand the gay world, or be
comfortable in that world, you have to at least be exposed to a
Alan looked at the floor. “Okay,” he said softly.
He giggled during the first ten minutes of the movie, but
then his brows furrowed as he began to concentrate. We didn’t
talk the whole time. I was taking notes and didn’t pause the
action as I might normally have done. I wasn’t sure Alan would
be able to take an entire dvd, but he sat on the sofa next to me
till the very end. Then, without a word, he went to the
bathroom. I smiled.
I felt a brief flash of guilt, though, wondering if I was
corrupting a pure man. But I believed in God, too, and I
believed God gave us sex to help make our lives better. What
was corrupt was making people feel like dirt when they were
sharing one of the few real pleasures in a usually difficult life.
Alan had told me a little about his theology, how sex was
reserved in the hereafter only for those people who’d lived the
best lives and were the most righteous. When Alan came out of
the bathroom now, he looked a little worried, so I said, “If it’s
okay for the righteous to enjoy their bodies for eternity,” I said,
“why is it a mortal sin to do it now?”
“Because we are mortal. The rules are different here.”
“Money can be used selfishly, to buy a hundred pairs of
shoes, or to feed the hungry,” I said. “Books can be used to
elevate the mind, like To Kill a Mockingbird, or they can be like
Mein Kampf and used to hurt people. Sex can be used to
degrade people or exercise power and control, or it can be used
to make people feel good and loved. Anything can be used
positively or negatively. But just because something can be
used negatively doesn’t mean the thing itself is necessarily
always bad. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Alan looked at the floor, his brows furrowed. “Maybe,” he
“How do you feel right now?”
“I don’t know. I’ve fantasized about some of those things
before, so I don’t know that it’s any worse to actually watch it.”
He paused. “It was oddly satisfying, and yet…”
“Somehow it made me think that just getting off
vicariously would somehow be a lesser thing than real sex.”
“That it would be a Telestial act rather than a Celestial
“You’re getting too Mormon on me.”
“The bottom line is that it makes masturbation not seem as
satisfying as it used to be.”
“Oh, don’t give up jacking off. Even after you start having
sex with others, it’s still fun to have sex with yourself. There’s
no sin in loving yourself, too.”
Alan looked at the floor. “I wonder.”
But I felt we’d made a breakthrough, and every Sunday
night thereafter, I asked Alan to “help” me with my reviews. It
felt like the world’s longest seduction, but we were both
enjoying every minute of the attempt. Alan was perfectly aware
of what I was doing, but he seemed quite willing to let me pull
him slowly along.
I thought things were going pretty well, but one Thursday
evening, Alan knocked on my door, on an unscheduled visit.
“My Mom almost caught me coming in this morning. I just
don’t know if I can sleep over any more. It would be too awful
if she found out.”
“Alan,” I said calmly. “What’s the worst she can do if she
finds out you’re sleeping over here?”
“She might say something about me being ‘confused’
rather than gay.”
“So she makes some remarks. That’s it?”
“Well, she also might just ignore it and keep it to herself.”
“Great. Then she shuts up and minds her own business.”
“None of that sounds all that terrible to me. It’s not like she
can disown you and move to Acapulco.”
“There’s another possibility.”
“She might feel sad.”
That one threw me for a second. Then I said slowly, “Well,
I’ll feel sad if you don’t sleep over. And you’ll feel sad, too.
That makes it two to one. Is it right for her to make us sad?”
“I’m not sure that’s fair,” said Alan. “If it makes 40 million
Germans happy to make 6 million Jews unhappy, do the
numbers make it right?”
That threw me a little, too. “I just think at some point we
have an obligation to live our own life. It’s an absolute
obligation. God gave you life, and it’s not yours to throw away.
You have to live while you’re alive.”
“Well, it’s not like my life is meaningless now. I have a
good job. I earn my way in the world. I read interesting books. I
do good things for people. I have a good friend I really care
about. That’s not nothing, is it?”
I waited a moment before speaking. “I value your
friendship. But I’ve had a partner before. And I know from
experience that loving someone so much they’re you’re best
friend and your lover is better than having someone who is just
a friend. There’s certainly a place for platonic friendship, but
there’s a place for sexual love, too. Adam and Eve had that. The
prophet in your church has it. It’s not something to toss aside
like so much garbage.”
“Ghandi was celibate the last couple of decades of his life.”
“Are your apostles abstinent? Does your church teach that
abstinence is a higher way?”
“Only for gays.”
“You said that even God has sex with his wives in heaven.
Are you higher than God?”
“If there is a God,” Alan mumbled. “Why would a god feel
the need to torture me all my life?”
“This is crippling your chance at happiness, with me or
anyone else. Are you sure you’re not just using your mother as a
gatekeeper or a scarecrow? I think maybe you’re just avoiding
taking responsibility for your own ambivalence about
“I’ve been trying.”
“Fifteen-year-old boys try harder than you. You’re an adult.
You can’t stay a shy teenager your whole life.”
Alan started crying, and though I was irritated with him, I
moved over and hugged him.
“Please help me,” he said, still sniffling. “Please love me
enough to put up with me.”
We lay down on the bed for a few moments so I could hold
him close against me.
I decided to try a new approach after this. I’d been keeping
Alan to myself, a little selfishly perhaps, but I thought maybe
exposing him now to other gay men might help him feel more
comfortable about “our world.” I hoped working in the gay
bookstore was helping, too. He’d gotten some propositions
there, but he hadn’t made any friends among the regulars. I
wanted Alan to have a larger network of gay men in his life.
On Tuesday night, I usually played cards with a few
friends, so I asked if I could bring Alan along, and they were all
anxious to meet “the Mormon.” We simply chatted as we
played, saying nothing particularly deep or meaningful.
“I’m going on a cruise this summer,” said Ted, one of the
group. “But I’m telling everyone I meet there that I’m 55
instead of 40. They’ll all be saying how good I look.”
“My last vacation was back in 1995,” said David, another
card player. “I mean, 2005,” he corrected himself. “I hate when
I get the wrong time, I mean, the wrong period, I mean, the
“The wrong lifetime?” I suggested.
“Yes, that’s so annoying.”
“Well, I have the right lifetime,” said Peter, the last in our
group. “Jared and I just celebrated our seventh anniversary.”
“How’s the itch?” asked Ted.
“You have to be careful when you say that to a gay man,”
countered David. “That could mean so many different things in
“I bought Jared an expensive new shirt for our anniversary.
He likes to look good. In fact, this is one of his shirts I’ve got
“You wear his clothes?”
“All the time. I hate to do laundry, and he insists on doing
his own clothes. So I wear his things, and he has to clean them.”
We all laughed.
“He complains and asks why I always wear his clothes.”
“ ‘So I can feel closer to you,’” suggested Alan.
We all laughed again.
“Good answer,” said Peter. “You have the makings of an
The evening continued in much the same way, with
meaningless banter over a meaningless card game. Alan seemed
to enjoy himself, and I asked the others later if it would be okay
to add him to our Tuesday nights. They all agreed, and soon,
Alan and I were seeing each other three nights a week.
The sneakovers continued unabated, even after Sharon
discovered one night that Alan was gone. She went into a fit the
next day, claiming she thought Alan had been murdered and she
was up the rest of the night worrying.
“But she didn’t call the police, did she?” I asked. “Or call
the hospitals? She didn’t ask for a name, did she? She’s not
stupid. She knew where you were.”
I was impressed that Alan managed to avoid explaining
where he was on his nights out, and managed to keep coming
despite his mother’s displeasure with it.
But a few weeks later, Alan stopped by with some bad
“My Mom has a lump in her breast,” he said gloomily.
“She goes in for a biopsy in a couple of days, and it’ll be
another week or so before she gets the results. I need to be at
home with her.”
“She’ll be okay,” I said softly. “Even if it’s cancer, they’ll
get it in time.”
“You understand why I can’t stay, don’t you?”
“Sure. I understand.”
I did understand, but I was still irritated, though I felt like a
heel because of my reaction. Obviously, Sharon couldn’t have
implanted the lump just to obstruct us, but it somehow still
seemed calculating. Was there even a lump at all, I wondered?
Or was all this just a ruse to get her boy back?
I had wondered if Sharon might start having dizzy spells or
some other minor problem if she ever discovered Alan was
sleeping over, but breast cancer was another thing. If it turned
out to be serious, Alan would be gone for months. While I did
truly love him, I realized suddenly, I wasn’t sure I was up to
waiting for him.
“Do you love me?” I asked.
“Will you come back to me later, no matter how things turn
out with your mother?”
“Yes,” said Alan. “I promise I’ll be back.”
Either I called Alan or he called me every night over the
next several days, but we only talked a few minutes before I
could hear Sharon calling out for him in the background.
But as it happened, my own life got busier because my
friend David from cards was starting work on a calendar that
was going to be used as a fundraiser for some local HIV
charities. He was a photographer and wanted to take photos of
“Charity work can be so trying,” I said.
But I decided to get involved, and over the next couple of
weeks, David set up three photo shoots. The first model shoot
was in the hot tub at David’s house. I got to apply the foam in
David also had a private and jungly backyard, so he
decided to use that as a setting for his second shoot with a
handsome math instructor from Loyola. I got to apply the baby
oil this time.
The third photo shoot took place in an out-of-the-way
voodoo temple in Bywater, just down the river a few blocks
from the Marigny. It turned out the temple priest was good
looking enough to be right for the photos, so I was happy to
attend this session as well, and got to light the candles.
What with card night and the library and the porn dvds and
the photo shoots and my occasional forays to the baths and to
the bars, I realized I could still lead a perfectly happy life
without Alan, if it turned out he saw the cancer as divine
retribution and slowly faded out of my life.
I still wanted Alan, though, and I was pleasantly surprised
when he showed up at my door one Monday evening a couple
of days later.
“How’s your Mom?” I asked.
“She’s fine. The lump wasn’t cancerous.”
I pulled Alan inside and gave him a hug and started kissing
him. He kissed back enthusiastically.
“You need any help with your reviews tonight?” He smiled.
“Sure.” I waved for him to follow.
We went upstairs and kicked off our shoes, falling down
together on the sofa. “So what have you been up to?” Alan
I took Alan’s feet in my lap and started rubbing them while
I told him in detail about the photo shoots. When I finished, he
pulled his feet away and sat up stiffly.
“I don’t want you doing things like that anymore,” he said.
“You’re my boyfriend.”
I looked at him with what I hoped was tenderness and said,
“I’m not a priest, you know.”
“I am,” Alan said sadly. “Since I was 16.”
“You could come along on some of the photo shoots if you
like. I’m sure David would be okay with that.”
Alan stared at the floor. “I can’t keep living my life by
proxy.” He laughed rather bitterly and shook his head. “You
know, in our temples, we do baptisms for the dead by proxy,
and marriages by proxy. I don’t want to live my whole life as if
I’m not really here in person.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“I think we’re going to skip the porn tonight.”
He pulled me close and kissed me slowly. Then he took my
hand and placed it on his crotch. I squeezed softly, and he
moaned. We pulled away for a moment and looked in each
other’s eyes. Then he nodded gently and pulled me close again.
Two and a half hours later, Alan rested his head on my arm
as we lay in bed. He held my other arm against his chest. It was
the first time I’d felt the hair on his chest without the buffer of
his Mormon underwear.
“I hope you understand that I’m going to be insatiable for a
while,” he said.
“I’ll make the sacrifice,” I replied. “For your sake.”
Alan laughed. There was a lightness to it this time.
We lay there quietly after that and slowly fell asleep in
each other’s arms.
I was anxious to see Alan’s reaction in the morning,
though, when he’d realize more fully what had happened, but he
was smiling as we ate a bowl of cereal, our first breakfast
together ever, since he hadn’t felt the need to sneak back home
at the crack of dawn today.
“My mother may have been the reigning queen all these
years,” said Alan, “but I’m not going to be the prince-in-waiting
“No, you’re officially a queen now, too.”
I got ready for work, and we went downstairs together to
leave. “I’ll see you for cards tonight,” I said, kissing Alan as I
locked the door behind us. We both climbed on our bicycles but
gave each other one last long look before getting ready to take
off in different directions.
“I learned something last night,” said Alan.
“There definitely is a God,” he said. “And he does love
“He’s not the only one.” I paused and then grinned. “The Sierra
Club loves you, too. I keep my promises.”
Alan smiled, blew me a kiss, and started pedaling off. I
smiled, too. 42 and 38 suddenly seemed very young to me.
I made my way through the Quarter, heading Uptown, and
watched people hosing down the sidewalks as I passed.
I had a lover now. It was better than just having a good
friend. It was better to have both, and to love the man you were
having sex with.
I waved at the men cleaning the rubber floor mats outside
the bars and kept going, still smiling. I was going to have a
And I was going to see Alan again tonight.
I started whistling an old disco tune and then, giggling
happily, offered up a prayer of thanksgiving into the early
Gay Mormon short stories. A celibate man dates a promiscuous porn
reviewer. A schizophrenic man accustomed to hearing voices suddenly starts
to receive real revelations. A gay couple steals from the rich to provide for
their favorite charities.
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